Home Health Care Agency Explains the Difference Between Asthma and COPD

elderly man covering his mouth to cough

elderly man covering his mouth to coughCoughing that just won’t go away. Shortness of breath. Wheezing. Probably an asthma attack, right? Before reaching for that inhaler or those OTC cough drops, though, it might be better to find out if another culprit – COPD – could be a factor. With upwards of 12 million Americans now living with COPD (and another 12 million who likely have the disease but are so far undiagnosed), it’s critical to determine the true cause behind that cough, and our home health care experts have provided us with the explanation below.

Some of the major differences between these two conditions include:


  • Environmental factors such as cigarette smoke, dust, and pet hair can trigger asthmatic symptoms like coughing and shortness of breath.
  • Usually displays in patients in childhood, often by age 5.
  • Thought to be caused by genetics.


  • Environmental triggers can exacerbate symptoms like coughing and difficulty breathing, but these symptoms are often present in a milder form regardless of air quality.
  • Typically diagnosed after age 40.
  • Caused mainly by cigarette smoking (in up to 90% of all patients), or by secondhand exposure to air pollutants.

While medications available for both COPD and asthma are often similar – bronchodilators or inhaled steroids – their treatment plans usually differ. Asthma patients are urged to keep away from known triggers, i.e., by staying inside when the pollen count is high and steering clear of secondhand smoke. Those with COPD face a more intense therapeutic approach, often including prescribed oxygen, pulmonary rehabilitation to maximize breathing capacity, and, most importantly, stopping smoking.

Of course, you’ll want to see the doctor if you’re concerned that your senior loved one is battling any lung condition.

Though there’s currently no cure for either asthma or COPD, both conditions are better controlled when properly diagnosed and treated. Although COPD does cause permanent, irreversible damage to the lungs, with correct treatment, the progression of the disease can be slowed down, its symptoms made more manageable, and quality of life maximized.

Heaven at Home Senior Care is also here to offer the assistance at home that can help make a chronic condition much easier to manage. Some of the many ways we can help include:

  • Light housework, to ensure as much dust as possible is removed from the home
  • Transportation and accompaniment to medical appointments and to pick up prescriptions
  • Encouragement and participation in physician-approved exercise programs
  • Planning and preparation of nutritious, delicious meals
  • Friendly, compassionate companionship
  • And much more

To help your senior loved one remain safe and healthy at home, contact Heaven at Home’s in-home care experts at 866.381.0500.